Promotion is Batch’s aim

SOLITARY GOAL: Sudbury captain Darren Batch has set his sights on the Two Counties First Division title
SOLITARY GOAL: Sudbury captain Darren Batch has set his sights on the Two Counties First Division title
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Darren Batch has a single goal in mind on his return to captaining Sudbury in the upcoming Two Counties Championship - promotion.

Batch, who led the team for three years, took last season off as captain, although continuing to play, and returns to the role refreshed and looking forward to the challenge.

His aim this season is simple – to take Sudbury back into the East Anglian Premier League. The club has been there before, for three seasons, before suffering relegation in 2013 after a late-season losing run.

“A lot of our players have experienced the Premier League,” he said.

“They enjoyed the experience, and they want to get back. We have to at least make the play-offs. Anything less will be a massive disappointment.”

The club took a major step towards that goal with the signing earlier this year of Suffolk captain Tom Huggins as club coach. The former Bury St Edmunds player has signed a three-year contract.

“I think we signalled our ambition with that signing,” said Batch. “It’s a major bonus. He will score runs for us and take wickets.”

Wicketkeeper Adam Mansfield is back after a year at Bury, adding experience to a generally youthful first team squad, but one that has tremendous potential.

Huggins and Mansfield, along with James Poulson and Nathan Poole are regulars in the Suffolk line-up, while Ben Hyett, Ben Reece, Johnny Gallagher and Billy Moulton Day have made appearances for the Suffolk development squad.

Sudbury start their Two Counties Championship Division One campaign at Maldon on Saturday. “It will be a good test,” said Batch, “but we are ready and looking forward to the season starting.

“We feel we have a strong enough squad that, if we play to our potential, is good enough to get us back into the EAPL.”

He expects the main challenge to Sudbury’s ambitions to come from Coggeshall, who narrowly lost out in the title race to Frinton last season, and Mildenhall, who always seem to unearth promising players from their massive youth set-up. Sudbury finished fifth last season.

“Last season I needed not to have the focus of captaincy,” he said.

“I have two young boys, now aged one and three, we moved house last year, and we have been planning a wedding for July. Captaincy is more than just on the field.”

He and partner Kirsty Sloan will be married in July.

Batch, who is starting his seventh season at Sudbury, had his first taste of captaincy, second time around, on Saturday, when Sudbury successfully chased down Cambridge Granta’s 285-5 in a pre-season game, Batch ending unbeaten on 49.

“It might take me a week or two to remember all the things a captain has to do, but I’m refreshed and ready to go,” said Batch.

n Sudbury start their Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Division One campaign on Saturday with a visit to Maldon. The second team, captained by Steve Witham, host Kelvedon and Freeing in Division Two. Phil Halliday’s third team are at Worlington in Division Six.

n The team finishing second in the Two Counties First Division this season will be offered a place in the play-offs for the EAPL if the champion club does not wish to be promoted.

n Cricket fixtures - page 77